Jasmine Hartin: accident or intent?

What her words say

We’ve looked at the recent TV interview from Jasmine Hartin. You can read about that interview here and the first part of my analysis is here.

Now we move on to the events that led to the death of Henry Jemmott.

Peter Van Sant: But let me finish the question.  … was it an accident or was it murder?

Jasmine Hartin: It was absolutely not murder.  Henry was my friend. … That day changed everyone's lives. 

Peter Van Sant: What happens?  What unfolds?

Jasmine Hartin: We're sitting on the end of the pier together. … He makes a comment about how his shoulder's really stiff.  And he's like, "Just rub my shoulder." … So, I kind of scooched back behind him. 

Jasmine says she agreed to give Henry Jemmott a shoulder massage. And then ...

Jasmine Hartin: "Let's head inside," he said. So, I said, "OK." So, he has the bullets to his left.  He asked me to hand him the clip from the gun.  That's when I picked it up.  I'm still kind of behind him a little bit.

Peter Van Sant: Who's holding the gun at that point?

Jasmine Hartin: Me.

Jasmine Hartin: So, I reach for the gun to take the magazine or the clip out, because he was going to reload it. He had the bullets there. … And all of a sudden, it went off. And —  [sighs] It's hard to talk about it still.

Peter Van Sant: Take me through that, moment by moment.

Jasmine Hartin: So … I lean over. I pick up the gun.  And I'm trying to click out the magazine and it's not working.  So, I'm holding it like this [motions with her hands] and I'm trying to use the moonlight or whatever to see if I'm clicking the right button.

Jasmine says the barrel of the gun was pointed to the left, where Henry was sitting.

Jasmine Hartin: Next thing I know, the gun went off.

 Peter Van Sant: And did you have a finger around the trigger?

Jasmine Hartin: Not that I thought. 

Peter Van Sant:  Somehow you must have pulled the trigger. 

Jasmine Hartin: I'd — I'm — I don't know. I — I — I mean, it was an accident, or the gun misfired. But consciously did I pull the trigger? No. 

Let’s break it down

There’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s start with anything consistent that is apparent across the piece. Jasmine is pretty consistent with her pronouns; she refers to Henry as “he” throughout and refers to herself in “I” or “me” terms. There is no use of the word “us” and only once does she describe them as a couple when she says, “we’re sitting on the pier”.

Repeated words or concepts can be very important. Jasmine always refers to the gun as a gun. It is never a weapon or pistol or any other word she could use. Likewise, she talks about bullets a lot. Now this isn’t surprising since we’re talking about the shooting of something with a bullet fired from a gun but let’s note it.

She also repeats click/clicking. There something in a click that is memorable for her. Jasmine says “to see if I'm clicking the right button” suggesting that something was clicking, she just didn’t know what. That will become important.

Jasmine is a whole lot less consistent with her tenses. There’s a lot of switches between past and present tense.. We tend to use past tense when describing events we have experienced. We use present tense to talk about things we can see now and that includes pictures we’re imaging in our head, but we haven’t experienced.

Some parts of her story aren’t in dispute. We know the gun went off and she always explains that in past tense; “And all of a sudden, it went off.” and “Next thing I know, the gun went off”.

Other parts of her storytelling are firmly in the present tense including “He makes a comment about how his shoulder's really stiff” and “I'm still kind of behind him a little bit”.

There are other changes in tense as we’ll see.

Line by line

Peter Van Sant:: was it an accident or was it murder?

Jasmine Hartin: It was absolutely not murder.  Henry was my friend. … That day changed everyone's lives. 

In this simple sentence there’s a lot to worry about. She is asked two questions in one, was it an accident or was it murder? She chooses to ignore the accident question and grabs the murder one. “It was an accident and there was no intention from me to kill Henry” would be a robust denial that goes to accident first.

When someone tells us what something isn’t (absolutely not murder) rather than what something is (an accident) we should pay attention to that.

Then follows two statements which, on the face of it, give evidence as to why it isn’t murder. However, both offer no defence at all. “Henry was my friend”, just because he’s your friend doesn’t mean there’s no way you killed him and “that day changed everyone’s lives”. Yes, it did, whether it was an accident or was murder that will still hold true. It’s irrelevant to the question.

Gun, Gun, Gun

I said earlier to pay attention to repeated words or phrases. In the full answer, Jasmine mentions picking up the gun three time. She is at pains to get across to us that she wasn’t holding the gun until she picked it up when she was asked to.

There are some interesting differences between each description. The first time she mentions getting the gun, it is simple and past tense “That's when I picked it up”. In the two other cases it is in the present tense and it’s no longer simple, she had to make an effort to pick up the gun. “I reach for the gun “ and “I lean over. I pick up the gun.”

The effort to pick up the gun, the suggestion that the gun wasn’t easy to get, only comes in the present tense. As I outline above, it’s more common to use the present tense when imagining scenarios rather than recalling them.

Trigger unhappy

When it is put to Jasmine that she must have had her finger on the trigger it causes her a lot of stress. This is when she starts to stutter a lot and abort what she was about to say. She goes to start her sentence with “I’d” and then “I’m” before settling on just “I” to start a very safe “I don’t know”.

Jasmine never once denies having her finger on the trigger only that she wasn’t conscious of it, or she didn’t think she had her finger on the trigger.

The curious case of the disappearing Henry.

One interesting thing about this extract is that Henry disappears during it.

He was part of a couple sitting on the pier “we’re sitting on the pier”, then there’s a shoulder massage described. Next, Henry becomes functional wanting to move, wanting to reload the gun. When Jasmine is asked to describe the incident moment by moment, he doesn’t get mentioned at all. There’s nothing about his actions, his words or his wants. There is nothing about the impact of the gun going off on Henry.

From Jasmine’s words, some distance was built up between her and Henry on the pier.

Both times Jasmine describes the gun going off, it’s sudden and unexpected. “He had the bullets there. … And all of a sudden, it went off.” and “Next thing I know, the gun went off.”. Both these phrases are suggestive of something happening that is being missed out before the gun went off.

Conclusion

As we’ve seen in part one, it’s highly possible Jasmine is cherry-picking the information she shares in order to hide things. If she is doing this, she is giving some truthful statements but leaving out parts too.

From her words above, during the time in question she seemed to grow more distant from Henry, did they have a falling out during their time on the pier?

For me, she’s trying very hard to show that the gun and the bullets were far from her, almost beyond her grasp. Why would someone do that? If someone is holding the gun for a long time and pointing it at a person, then it’s more likely to be fired with intent. Someone who has to lean over, pick up and gun and try to reload it is more likely to have an accident. The parts where Jasmine says she has to reach of lean where in present tense.

There are more questions for her to answer so we can find the truth:

Did she and Henry fall out that night?

How long was she holding the gun before it went off?

She says she was clicking something but doesn’t know if it was the right thing, what was she clicking?

What are the bits that are being missed out before the guns goes off?

She believes it was an accident but does not give a convincing enough explanation of events for us to conclude that was the case.

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